POUND, William (d.c.1418), of Kingston-upon-Hull, Yorks.
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Family and Education
Bailiff, Kingston-upon-Hull, Mich. 1387-8; mayor 1395-6, 1397-8.2
Collector of customs, Kingston-upon-Hull 4 Nov. 1388-8 Dec. 1391, 5 Oct. 1399-13 May 1403.
Dep. butler, Kingston-upon-Hull 14 Nov. 1391-23 Feb. 1401.
Commr. to suppress piracy, Kingston-upon-Hull May 1398; take victuals to the royal army in Scotland c. June 1400; of inquiry, Yorks. Dec. 1400 (goods of John Barkworth); to distrain shipping, Hull May 1401.
William’s father, Adam Pound, was one of the leading figures in mid 14th-century Hull, representing the town in at least six Parliaments, and also serving a term as mayor. He and his first wife, Margaret, owned extensive property in Hull Street, Pole Street, Aldgate and other parts of the borough which he divided between their five children. His second wife, Alice, derived comparatively little benefit from the will which he made in February 1369, although he was rich enough to leave over £60 in cash to various religious orders in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. He was also generous to his eldest son, the subject of this biography, who inherited his chief messuage in Hull Street, as well as four more messuages, houses and cellars in Pole Street, and a reversionary interest in other holdings which had been settled upon his siblings. Alice’s share of the family estates comprised land in Barton-on-Humber, and this eventually passed, in 1384, to William’s next brother, John. In the following year another brother, Thomas, who was a priest, disposed of one of his tenements in Hull to William, who thus continued to consolidate his position as a local landowner of note. His chief source of revenue came not from rents, however, but from overseas trade, in which he was continuously involved from 1386 onwards, if not before. As was frequently the case in the mercantile community his activities were sometimes barely distinguishable from piracy, and it was in July of that year that he was bound over to appear before the royal council to defend his title to certain merchandise captured under suspicious circumstances at sea by a fleet from Hull. In the event, the Crown failed to produce any evidence against him, and he secured a writ of supersedeas, exculpating him from any further claims.3
Not surprisingly, in view of his position in the borough, William was made bailiff of Hull in 1387, and duly secured his own return to the Merciless Parliament of February 1388. His reasons for seeking election are not hard to find, since the Commons were still sitting when he negotiated the purchase, for £20, of a ship called La Christofre of Lübeck which had been confiscated by the government because of an act of felony by the owner. Although he was not employed for very long periods as a customs official in Hull, the MP must have derived some personal benefit from his two terms of office, since he himself shipped large quantities of wine, cloth, iron and herring through the port on a regular basis.4 His election to the 1399 Parliament may, perhaps, be of some significance in so far that this particular assembly sanctioned the seizure of the throne by Henry of Bolingbroke, one of the junior Lords Appellant of 1388. At all events, he remained as deputy butler of Hull as well as resuming his work as a customs official and sitting on a handful of royal commissions. One of these, for the victualling of the army which Henry IV took to Scotland in the summer of 1400, led eventually to a lawsuit in Chancery and the setting up of a royal commission of inquiry to investigate allegations that William had extorted grain and other foodstuffs ‘of no small value’ from farmers in Yorkshire without payment, and had then sold them for his own profit in Northumberland. He certainly dealt with large quantities of provisions during the course of the expedition, but direct evidence of intimidation or malversation on his part remains wanting. It is, none the less, interesting to note that at about the same time a French merchant accused him of requisitioning a quantity of wine worth £26 for the King’s use, and of then refusing to settle more than a fraction of the bill. He seems to have been beset by financial difficulties during the early years of the century, since besides being sued in the court of common pleas for a debt of 20 marks by a merchant from Lynn, he also owed Walter Skirlaw, bishop of Durham (d.1406), the sum of 200 marks, secured on a bond in statute merchant. Yet, with characteristic nonchalance, he never appeared in court to answer the first charge (and was later pardoned the sentence of outlawry which he incurred for failing to do so), and left his son and heir to deal with the demands of Skirlaw’s executors. Such evasive tactics proved less successful when it came to the consequences of yet another piratical raid by his men. Shortly before July 1412 he and his mariners seized a Scottish ship called Le Goddesknyght in the North Sea, and took it to Hull, hoping to share out the booty between them. Fear lest the incident might lead to other breaches of the truce with Scotland led the government to insist that the ship and its cargo be promptly restored, so William lost his prize.5
Notwithstanding his somewhat chequered career, William enjoyed the respect and confidence of his fellow townsmen, for whom he acted, in 1393, during the course of a dispute between the community of Hull and Simon Grimsby II*. He also stood surety at the Exchequer, in 1401, for a friend who was taking on the lease of land in Wiltshire, and in Chancery two years later for members of the Rolleston family then being sued for breaking the peace.6 He died shortly before July 1418, when his son and heir, Walter, received a final acquittance of his debts to the late Bishop Skirlaw. He left a widow, Elizabeth, who retained his properties in Hull Street for a few years before deciding to lease them to Walter for an annual rent of ten marks. Not too long afterwards, in 1426, Skirlaw’s executors excused her, too, from any further demands upon the Pound estate.7